The Presidency of Andrew Jackson

October 10, 2008
Andrew Jackson, the “scourge of the Indians”, was a despotic leader of the United States. Since he was a prejudiced man who had a temper and “lived off the labor of his many slaves”, President Jackson had a certain reputation. Many of his actions while in office were violent, selfish, or careless.

In 1818, at a time when the new countries of South America were struggling and the Americans wanted to annex Florida, Andrew Jackson requested permission to enter the Spanish territory. Since Spain was distracted by the turmoil of Latin America, Andrew Jackson, a man with a history of being involved in fights and duels, believed that it was the right time to gain control of Florida. As soon as he was in Florida, Jackson planned to chastise the Seminole Indians and apprehend the slaves who escaped from the South. While promising to revere the Spaniards and their flag, Jackson killed two Brits for helping the Seminoles, hung two Seminole chiefs, and took over two significant Spanish towns, Pensacola and St. Mark’s.

When Jackson was first elected President of the United States in 1828, he acted like he had the most power and took advantage of his high position. Sometimes he even fired people in his Cabinet (especially the Secretary of the Treasury) because they did not agree with him. While President Jackson was in office, the spoils system, giving away government jobs and positions to supporters and friends, emerged. Even though many of his democratic supporters were inexperienced and untrustworthy, Jackson gave those people important offices and jobs just because they were his friends and members of the Democratic Party. The President tried to justify this system by claiming that it is always a good idea to give new people a chance. Several years into Jackson’s first term as President, the debauchery of the spoils system became even more visible when scandals (like untrustworthy people stealing government money) were exposed.

During Jackson’s first year of being President in 1828, he passed an extremely high tariff, which was known as the “tariff of abominations” and the “black tariff”, to protect the American industries. This tariff hurt the South’s economy because the South was more of an agricultural society and they relied heavily on manufacturing from other parts of the country. Jackson lost all his support from the South because the Southerners thought they were being harrowed. Although President Jackson attempted to fix the problem by passing the tariff of 1832, the Southerners (mainly South Carolinians) were still unhappy. South Carolina went as far as stating that the tariff was “null and void” (in South Carolina) and that the state might secede from the Union. Because of South Carolina’s reaction, President Jackson readied the military and navy, formed a significantly sized army, and proposed the invasion of South Carolina and the execution of dissenters. After this threat, Jackson passed the Force Bill, which allowed the President to use military force to obtain money from tariffs and taxes.

Because he wanted to expand U.S. territory westward, President Jackson forced over one-hundred thousand Indians from the Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Cherokee tribes to move west of the Mississippi River. He passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced all Indians to move west of the Mississippi River. This forced journey to the west on the “Trail of Tears” caused the unnecessary sickness and death of many Indians. Many Indians protested and fought for their rights, but were defeated by American soldiers (like the American victory against the Sauk and Fox tribes in the Black Hawk War).

President Jackson was widely known for his opposition to the Bank of the United States. When Congress gave Jackson the Bank Bill after approval, he vetoed it. President Jackson claimed that the Bank of the United States was unconstitutional even though the Supreme Court had already established the fact that the bank was constitutional. Instead of thinking about what was best for the United States and the American people, President Jackson vetoed the bill because of personal reasons (he did not like the bank). During this “bank war”, Jackson decided to remove all government money from the Bank of the United States and place it in smaller “pet banks”, which were scattered across the country. He also made “metallic” money mandatory for purchasing land because the paper money at that time was not very stable. The sudden removal of money, instability of the national bank, and unstable currency resulted in a nationwide financial crisis.

The actions of President Jackson were often selfish and unsound. Although President Jackson was admired by many democrats, he had many rules and policies (like the Indian Removal Act of 1830) that caused the pain and misfortune of many people. Since Jackson’s two terms did not benefit the United States very much, it was a good thing that he unselfishly decided not to run for a third term.

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